Spending Money 1: I’ve got thirty thousand gold pieces and nothing to spend them on.

8b179ff4ae0da82ec9de423c03d1-grandeI want to have a conversation about how players can spend their money.

There never seems to be an interesting thing to spend money on. This is a pretty consistent problem in the OSR style games I’ve played. The 1gp = 1xp model is awesome, it puts the game’s focus right where it needs to be. But once that money has done its job of incrementally moving the players closer to their next level, little thought is given to what happens next. Players just amass hoards of useless wealth.

The baseline assumption of oldschool D&D is that players who have a lot of gold will spend it on a stronghold and an army of hirelings. But that’s poorly suited to a lot of games, which focus entirely on party-based adventure and eschew domain-level play. And even when domain play works within the game, that doesn’t mean it’s interesting to every player.

Most OSR games I’ve played have also implemented some variant of the carousing rules at this point, which is good. Carousing is a great option to have. But it can’t be the only option. I mean, it’s basically just a fancy way of setting all your money on fire.

When one of my characters is flush with cash, I want to spend that money on something that will make me more effective. I want a better chance of getting out of the next dungeon with my hit points above 0 because of the money I spent. Of course, the easy way to accomplish this is to have a big list of magic items with humongous price tags, à la Pathfinder. But that’s boring and dumb and I hate it.

For a long time now I’ve wanted to write a broad examination of every interesting money sink I can think of. I had kind of a false start on this idea about 18 months ago.  The scope of the project was a little overwhelming, and every time I spoke with someone about it they had all these neat ideas I’d never considered before, which made the scope even larger and more overwhelming. What’s clear is that a lot of people have come up with a lot of solutions to this problem that I’ve never heard of. I want to absorb it all. I want to share my own ideas, and examine other people’s ideas.

So if you have an idea, I’d love it if you told me about it. If you wrote a blog post or you know of a blog post, I’d love to be linked to it. I myself have already written a lot on this subject. (The “curio shop” idea is a 14 page google doc all by itself.) So expect a lot of posts from me on this topic for the next week or so at least.

Related Posts:

The original impetus that spawned this idea.

A first attempt at coming up with things to spend money on.

The Google+ conversation for this post, which raised some good resources.

Eric Treasure’s idea.

James Young’s Idea.

A direct response to this post from d4 Caltrops

A Better Use for Bookshelves

Big-BookshelvesTwo years ago I wrote “A Use for Bookshelves.” It’s one of my favorite game ideas that I’ve ever come up with.

But it’s a clunky system. I’ve been using it in pretty much every dungeon I’ve designed in the last two years, and it’s always a hassle. Preparing a table of interesting information is a lot of work. It’s tiring, and I end up resorting to options that feel cheap. Like hollow books with a few gold coins in them, or completely random information that has nothing to do with the ‘theme’ of the bookshelf.

When I wrote the bookshelf system, I believed in front-loading game content. I wanted to create a huge game environment with mountains of detail. A fleshed out sandbox where the players could pick any direction to move, and there would be something for them to find there. But attempting to put that philosophy in practice has meant a lot more work for very little apparent benefit. Now, I think player interest should drive the referee’s worldbuilding. The sandbox still needs to be structured in advance, but the details don’t need to be at the referee’s fingertips before play begins. Take, for example, bookshelves.

Each bookshelf has a subject, and a number. That’s the only thing  prepared in advance.

All the books on the bookshelf fall within its subject. So a bookshelf about fishing might have books about types of fish, methods of fishing, history of fishing, ways of cooking fish, etc. The actual books don’t need to be enumerated or titled. The shelf’s theme just gives you a range of possibilities.

The number has two functions. First, it is the number of encumbrance points (not encumbering items) required to haul the books off. So “Bookcase: Fishing 12” will require the party to use 12 encumbrance points to get the books out of the dungeon. If they like, they can break the library up, taking as few as 1 encumbrance point worth of books with them. But if you only take 1 encumbrance point worth of books, then you only have Fishing 1 at your disposal, rather than Fishing 12.

The number is also the amount of questions that can be answered by the books before they’ve absorbed all of the knowledge the shelf has to give them. The question must be reasonably within the bookshelves’ subject, but other than that any question is fair game. Answering a single question requires 12 hours of game time book studying. If the referee doesn’t already know the answer, they’ll figure it out by the start of the next game session.

So, for example, the players find bookshelf: Religion 8. Between everyone, the party only has 6 available encumbrance points, so they haul Religion 6 back to the surface.  The cleric wants to know if there are any holy relics of his deity within 100 miles that he could recover for the glory of his god. The referee happens to have included such an item in a nearby dungeon, so after the character takes 12 hours to study the books, the referee tells the players about the dungeon, and that there should be a relic there. The fighter, meanwhile, wants to know if there’s any god badass enough for her to want to worship. The referee doesn’t really have a good answer, so after the session ends he comes up with a heavenly dog who has swords for legs and eagles instead of eyes. He presents the fighter with that info at the start of the next session.

Not only does this dramatically reduce the amount of work that the referee has to do, but it also gives the players a unique tool that they’ll be interested to use. The old system was a means of dispensing clues and quest hooks that would spark the player’s interest. This system is a tool to satiate an interest the players already have.

I’m eager to test this out.

LotFP/FFX Class: Wakka

FFX_Wakka_ArtWakka is a Blitzballer. Blitzball is a kind of soccer-like sport that is played entirely underwater. The physical demands of the sport are intense, and it thus produces amazing athletes. Retired or washed-out players often find a life of adventure to be a profitable post-career pursuit.

The class has a 1d8 hit die. They advance in level and saving throws as a fighter, and attack as a specialist. They are able to make unarmed attacks dealing 1d6 damage, rising to 1d8 at level 4, and then 1d10 at level 8.

Blitzballers are notable for their skill at moving in water. Much of their intense athletic training focused on the ability to remain underwater for long periods and still play an effective game. Blitzballers are thus able to hold their breath for up to 1 hour per level, and can move and attack underwater just as effectively as they do on land.

The blitzball itself is a unique item. Few have the skills and knowledge required to craft them, and the materials are expensive to acquire. A regulation blitzball for use in the sport costs 300sp. Some adventuring blitzballers have discovered modifications to the regulation ball to make it a more effective combat weapon. A level 1 blitzballer begins play with a regulation blitzball. If lost, they must pay to replace it.

To the true blitzballer, the blitzball is an extension of the self. Which, of course, is why they’re able to make unarmed attacks with their blitzball. The attack range increment is 30′ + 10′ every 2 levels. They deal damage by targeting nerve clusters. And on a natural 20, the target of a blitzballer’s attack must save v. Paralyzation or their body will go completely limp until their next turn. Of course, this only works with creatures who have nerve clusters. On a successful attack, the Blitzball will then ricochet back into the blitzballer’s hands. On a failed attack, the blitzballer has miscalculated their throw. They must spend a round retrieving their ball before they can attack with it again.

Flying creatures are particularly prone to the blitzballer’s attacks. If a flying creature is hit by a blitzball attack, it must immediately save versus Paralyation or fall to the ground. Creatures which fly without wings (such as someone under the effects of a Fly spell) receive a +4 to this save.

LotFP/FFX Class: Yuna

YunaYuna is a summoner. Summoners tend to be waifish and pale; a result of long hours of monastic study, meditation, and prayer. They share their hit dice, experience progression, and attack bonuses with magic Users, and have the same save progression as a cleric. Summoners can also cast clerical spells as though they were a cleric 2 levels lower than their Summoner level. (So a level 3 summoner has the casting abilities of a 1st level cleric).

Summoners spend their lives learning to communicate with realms beyond the physical plane. When encountering Outsiders or Elementals, those creatures react to the summoner with the same courtesy they would show a member of their own race. This is not an illusion or misdirection, the summoner simply knows how to present themselves correctly to these creatures.

When a group of humans, or one particularly powerful human, undergo a ritual which puts them into an ageless sleep. The intense dreams of each group merge and twist together, eventually coalescing into a creature called an Aeon. Summoners have a particular connection with Aeons, and indeed the monastic road of the Summoner and the sacrificial road of the dreamer are two paths within the same secretive faith.

Aeons are unique and independent creatures. They are not mere expressions of the groups who formed them. They have their own wills and desires, and while they do generally like summoners, they do not necessarily want to serve every summoner they encounter. The summoner receives a +2 to their reaction roll when meeting an Aeon for the first time, and must convince the Aeon that they are a summoner worthy of the Aeon’s services. I highly recommend Courtney Campbell’s “On the Non Player Character” for adjudicating this process. The rules in Appendix A: Arguing would be particularly apt here.

Once an Aeon has been bound to the Summoner, they will obey the Summoner unquestioningly. They will appear when called, and obey any command they are given. Despite being summoned creatures, the particular nature of Aeons means that if they die, they are dead and cannot be returned to life even by the most powerful magics. The summoner must make a save v. Magic or take a negative level from the death of their Aeon.

A summoner may contract with as many Aeons as they wish. However, they may only ever summon 1 Aeon a day, which will remain in the physical world for 8 hours. (12 after level 5). The process of being summoned is a turbulent one, which partially drains the Aeon’s of their energy. More practiced summoners will be able to make the process easier, and so the Hit Dice of a summoned Aeon usually depend somewhat on the hit dice of the summoner.

Aeons created by dreamers who willingly underwent the ritual of eternal sleep are unusually powerful; but these willing dreamers are rare.

Example Aeon

Valefor is a reptilian flying creature, with the body mass of a bull and a wingspan of 44′. She is covered in colorful feathers in hues of purple and red. A crest of stringy white hair cascades from the top of her head, down to the base of her neck. She is refined in her manner. She speaks very properly and acts with (and expects) courtesy. She’s also self pitying to a somewhat annoying degree, though she does make an effort not to complain too loud or too often.

AC 15, 2+[ 1/2 Summoner’s Level] HD, Move 60′(20′)/270′(70′), 2 Claws 1d4, 1 Beak 1d8, Morale 12

Desired Outcome: Valefor joins the summoner. (*)(*)

(I’m of no use to anyone.)[Remind Valefor of past glories.]

(There are many better Aeons than me.)[Demonstrate that Valefor will offer the summoner something that no other Aeon will.]

(If I were to join you, I would be likely to die.)[Make some meaningful gesture of dedication to keeping Valefor alive.]

(I cannot bind myself to anyone who is unrefined.)[Demonstrate refinement.]

LotFP/FFX Class: Auron

Auron_artworkThe other day, my brother and I were talking about a campaign he wants to run based on Final Fantasy X. He’s sketching out a system for it, and wanted to workshop some classes. Mechanically, I actually think FFX is probably the best game in the whole series. The game’s story is mediocre, and the presentation is bad, but the actual play of the game feels really good to me. So I thought it would be fun to sketch out some OSR compatible classes based on the characters in the game. I don’t know if I’ll do everyone. But I’d like to explore at least a few of the characters, starting with one of my all time favorites: Auron. Auron is a warrior monk.

Warrior Monks have devoted themselves to playing a support role. Most often they obey the will of a large organization such as a religion or a state. Occasionally, they swear themselves to an individual and devote themselves to keeping that individual safe and advancing that individual’s goals. Though they may attempt to influence the direction of those to whom they have sworn themselves, a warrior monk’s strength comes from their devotion to the needs of another. If their service comes to an end (either through dismissal, or the death of their master,) then the warrior monk must make a save versus Poison. This save is made at a penalty equal to the warrior monk’s level. The higher their level, the deeper their fealty, and the more difficult it is to lose their master. On failure, they spiral into vice. Alcohol, drugs, gambling, etc. Their slovenly state persists until they devote themselves to someone new.

Warrior monks have a d12 hit die, and advance as a fighter for saves and level-ups. Their to-hit bonus advances as a cleric’s does. Their particular combat style favors heavy, precise blows. So long as they are wielding a weapon with both hands, their damage die with that weapons is 1 better than normal. (a weapon that normally deals 1d6 damage instead deals 1d8. A 1d8 weapon deals 1d10. Etcetera.)

Warrior monks ignore armor rating from armor when they attack with a two handed weapon. So, in Lamentation of the Flame Princess, this means that all humanoids are treated as AC 12. 13 if they use a shield, and otherwise adjusted by dexterity.

On a successful hit, the warrior monk rolls damage. That damage is reduced by 1 if the target is wearing leather armor, 2 if they are wearing chain, and 4 if they are wearing plate.

If a Warrior Monk is within 10′ of the individual they are sworn to (or a representative of the organization they are sworn to), then they may opt to protect that character from taking damage by instead taking the damage themselves. When they do this, the protected character must make a save v. Paralyzation (with a +1 bonus per level of the Warrior Monk) or be knocked prone to the ground, interrupting spellcasting and limiting actions on the character’s next turn.

More Magic Words in Action

Rembrandt_Peale_-_George_Washington_-_Google_Art_Project_(721252)Magic Words in Action was a lot of fun to write. So I’m gonna be lazy and just do it again.

This time, I figure it might be interesting to try and theme the words more. So this time I randomly generated a body part, a verb, and 2 weird words. I also decided to throw a person’s name in there. In your game it would be some important caster in your game world, but I just finished studying the American Revolution, so lets all pretend that George Washington was a wizard. So our words are:

(Yes. I swear this was randomly generated.)




George Washington

I’m really tempted to change “Nipple” to something less ridiculous. Like “Fist” or “Heel.” How cool does “Washington’s Fist” sound as a spell? But Nipple is what the website gave me, and that’s what I’m stuck with. I’m going to interpret the meaning of nipples as a thing which provides succor, or a thing which releases a substance in small amounts.

Of course, after writing these spells, there are many of them that could be renamed to make a little more sense. But that’s not really in keeping with the spirit of the system.

In the previous post, all spells were 1st level. This time I’m just going to come up with the spells, and forgo spell levels.

Washington’s Nipples

Only a lawful character may cast this spell successfully. It is a ritual spell, requiring a full hour to cast. Once complete, 250 people per caster level will have their lives sustained for one day. They will still feel hunger, thirst, exhaustion, and cold. But these things will not kill them.

Visit from Washington

This is a ritual spell which requires a full hour to cast, and its casting must coincide with one of the high holy days of Washington’s faith. When cast, 100 people per caster level may travel up to 50 miles instantaneously and silently. However, their path must follow a network of established roads. A wide, oft-trodden dirt road counts, but a deer trail does not.

The Tune of Washington

A patriotic spell which must be sung by the caster. Any hirelings within earshot become inspired. If at any point during the coming day they are required to make a loyalty check, they make the check twice and take the better result.

Washington’s Mist

Affects a group of 100 people per level of the caster. If the group is retreating from battle, and this spell is cast, then determine who in the group has the highest stealth skill. That person makes a skill check at a -1 penalty. If their check is successful, then the entire group is able to stealthily remove themselves from battle.

Mists of Visitation

Spell summons a deep mist. The mist is weak, and so to last more than a single round, it must be cast in the proper conditions for mist. Near a body of water, in the cool hours of the day. If done properly, the mist will remain until it disipates naturally.

Anyone who enters the mist will meet someone interesting. Perhaps they’ll meet the man of their dreams, or the ghost of a long dead master willing to share a useful secret. There’s no way to control who you meet within the mists, but it is guaranteed to be beneficial.

Visiting Nipple

As part of preparing this spell, you must designate a body of liquid. It can be a jug you carry on your person, or an ocean. However, you must be able to touch the liquid when you prepare the spell. When cast, your nipples are replaced by 1″ diameter portals to that body of liquid. It will pour out of you at a rate of 2′ feet per round, for 1 adventuring turn, before your normal nipples return to your body.

Tune of Visitation

A spell which requires the caster to make music. The music can be made either by singing, or by playing an instrument. For as long as the caster is able to keep the song going, the spell’s duration will continue. The spell teleports a willing target to the location of one of their blood relatives. When the spell ends, they are teleported back.

Misty Nipples

Causes 1 protrusion to rise from a nearby surface per level of the caster. The caster has no control over where precisely the protrusions rise, other than “nearby.” The protrusions match the material of whatever surface they sprouted from. Immediately, each of the protrusions begins to leak a white mist that grows to fill the room. Each protrusion fills 10′ feet per round, for 6 rounds. The mist does not inhibit breathing, and in fact, breathing the mist is quite nutritious. Spending a turn in the mist counts as eating a full meal.

Tune in the Mist

A spell that must be cast on a pre-existing fog or mist. For the next day, anyone in the mist will hear an eerie song. A mix of human wailing, and the low bellows of wind and string instruments. This illusion will force a morale check in most creatures, and even those who succeed are likely to be shaken by the experience.

The Nipple’s Tune

An illusion spell cast on a single target. On a failed save versus Magic, the character begins to occasionally hear a strange singing. Investigation will lead them to discover that their own nipples appear to have grown mouths, which amateurishly sing their way through a variety of improvised songs. At first their singing is occasional and quiet, but over time it grows louder and more frequent. By the end of a week, the victim believes their nipples are constantly singing, at a volume loud enough to be heard clearly by anyone nearby, despite any attempts at muffling they may make.

This kind of delusion will obviously affect a person in a variety of detrimental ways, best determined by the referee.

Related Links:

The original Magic Words system proposal.

The previous Magic Words in Action post.

Another list of mix-and-match spells over at Built By Gods Long Forgotten.

Additional ideas, and a list of 100 spell words compiled by Ktrey Parker

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